Sofia, May 9
I have terminated my spring campaign in the Balkans.
Looking back on these two months I can discern three primary objectives. One was secret, accomplished, you will hear from it in due time. Two was to visit my brother Memed in Istanbul. Which I did, with great joy&respect. And three was… well, to do a ‘revolutionary temperature check’ in eastern Europe.
I did that too, more or less. Of course I don’t pretend to know these countries, not even a bit, but it’s pretty obvious that nothing is going to change for the better here in the foreseeable future.
Why? Because there is too much ‘oldthink’ in these places. In the countries that haven’t experienced communism – Turkey and Greece – the self-proclaimed revolutionaries still define themselves through this heavily outdated philosophy. They would be adorable if they weren’t, a. utterly ridiculous, and b. an obstacle to any social change rather than a facilitator of it.
In countries that do have experienced communism – Hungary, Bulgaria and to a lesser extent Serbia – everyone is well aware that a system that forces people to be mediocre doesn’t work. Anything that smells like left wing or socialism or that has the word ‘common’ in it, is heavily suspect. Life is bad in these places, but it has been even worse. So people shrug their shoulders, bow their heads, and try to get by. At the very least, capitalism doesn’t force them to be mediocre, it merely stimulates them to be that way.
Instead of 19th century political philosophies about workers and factories we need new ways of thinking, tailored to the information age. We have the web, which allows us to ‘cut out the middle man’, both in politics and in the economy. We can rule ourselves, we can decide ourselves what we consume and what we produce, we can rationalise the distribution of our goods and our space. Without authority, without coercion.
If anywhere, Spain will be a laboratory for this kind of ‘newthink’, call it anarchism if you like.
It’s fascinating, the popular indignation and the shape it is taking. There are many sides to it. One is about words, another is about taking conscience. In a society dominated by advertising, words don’t mean shit. It’s all about eye-catching images and pure nonsense. Not very different from the iconography and the slogans of the former communist block.
What we are doing is, we are going beyond the bullshit. For two years running we let words flow free in countless assemblies. This has changed the discourse. All public grievances are out in the open. Now we are trying to restore meaning to those words that define our political constitution. One is ‘popular sovereignty’.
If we the people are sovereign, we must be conscient of it, and we must exercise that sovereignty, or someone else will do it for us. To exercise it, we must decide what we want. During the Acampada in Sol it was impossible for people to agree on a few issues – the ‘consenso de minimos‘ – but these have taken shape themselves. A few basic things to start with, that a great majority of the population will agree on. Free health care, free education, public water, all of high quality. And a stop to foreclosures. If this is not possible in the current economic system, then the economic system must change, and with it the political structures that uphold it.
Spain is moving. Over a million people have signed for public water as a human right. And this week, from May 5 to 10, signatures for public health care are being collected all throughout the capital region of Madrid in preparation for a popular bill.
Another popular bill that was presented by the Platform against Mortgage Foreclosures, backed up by 1.5 million signatures, was mutilated by the governing Popular Party before they had it voted last month by their own majority. There is hardly a trace of the original demands of the Platform in the bill, like the extinction of debt with the return of the keys to the house.
So, for as long as the government keeps ignoring the will of the people, the struggle will continue in the streets, under the windows of the the ruling class, inside parliament, and inside the banks. Today it was Bankia’s turn, the nationalized bank that keeps foreclosing on its owners, the citizens. At this moment, all over Spain, people are flocking to Bankia franchises to shut them down in every legal way, by closing and opening accounts, by requesting every possible information, by depositing heaps of loose coins etc. etc. Many of the bank’s franchises closed on forehand.
That’s today. I haven’t even talked about the simultaneous demonstrations for public education in all the big cities. And there is much more. This thing is ongoing. As from tomorrow evening – inshallah – I will be back in Barcelona to continue my direct coverage of the Spanish Revolution.